Public Comment

Election Suggestions

Joanna Graham
Friday February 08, 2019 - 10:51:00 AM

Just a few weeks ago, when the new year was still fresh and dewy, I woke up to the horrid realization that the 2020 presidential election season was already up and running. Twenty-two long miserable months to go. 

Fortunately, I can save everyone hundreds if not thousands of hours of wasted time spent following or even participating in this protracted and pointless ritual by forecasting the outcome now. 

First, though, I must make the disclaimer that I am not a seer, no more than all those people who make their living opining endlessly on TV et cetera about what is going to happen even though they have no idea what is going to happen. Furthermore, I am aware that unexpected things can upset the normal course of events, especially now that what passes for normal, from politics to weather, is far more chaotic, random, and unpredictable than what we grew used to in the second half of the twentieth century. 

Therefore, all I can do is look at previous data and from them draw the most obvious conclusions, which are as follows. 

There are three reasonably certain probabilities. The first is that Donald Trump will seek and win a second term. 

The second is that for some reason Donald Trump will not run, in which case some other Republican will do so and win. A glance at the 16 hopefuls who were defeated by Trump in the 2016 primaries indicates that the potential Republican field is not promising. 

This leaves us with Democrats on whom I know many Berkeleyans have pinned their hope. But history indicates that this hope is not rational. The Democrat who will win (if a Democrat wins) will be an unimaginative mediocrity who is a willing servant of the ruling class which is now in the last stages of destroying life on earth. 

It is true that a Democrat might be a slightly kinder, gentler servant of the ruling class than a Republican servant of the ruling class, but a servant of the ruling class nonetheless who will do exactly the same things that the Republican candidate might have done if he or she had won, although the Democratic president will speak in a kinder, gentler, more high-minded way while doing them. 

On what grounds do I base this assertion other than my personal disaffection from the Democratic party? Data. 

One. All seven presidents since 1976, four Republicans and three Democrats, have pursued the same neoliberal policies of breaking the working class, privatizing the public sphere, squeezing the welfare state, expanding policing, and in general doing whatever is necessary to transfer wealth upward, the result of which has been ever greater inequality and ever less democracy. Furthermore, all presidents since WWII have willingly helmed the project to maintain U.S. hegemony over the entire planet by all means fair and foul—or at least, despite some squeaks now and then, none has tried hard to stop it. 

Two. At present it costs getting on towards one billion dollars to run for president. Thus, no one can enter the office without being either personally fabulously wealthy or beholden to people who are. It is true that the 2016 election was abnormal with respect to funding as well as other aspects. I will comment here only that the (mildly) left insurgent was mocked by the media and squashed by his party while the racist, nativist nutcase on the right waltzed into the White House. Apparently there were rich people who believed that though unsavory, he would do—and, for the most part, they should not feel disappointed. 

Three. Donald Trump is our 45th president (actually the 44th person to hold the job). The overwhelming majority of our presidents were mediocre and forgettable. Check it out. Ask any regular American to name six; I doubt if many can get that far. So statistically speaking, the most likely outcome is that our next president, Democrat or Republican, will be mediocre and forgettable too. 

Four. We as a species are currently faced with multiple interactive crises so overwhelming and insoluble in nature that no one person, even one as prominent and powerful as the president of the United States, can solve them. But the chances that any person elected is even going to recognize the crises, let alone address them, is essentially zero since recognizing (and addressing) them requires challenging the world as it is, a world which works very well (for now) for the rich.  

Given the reality described above, I suggest that no voter should bother to pay any attention to the presidential race until late summer 2020 (at the earliest) when, presumably, we will know who the major party candidates will be. Then ask yourself this question: is one of these candidates sufficiently preferable to the other so that I can hold my nose and vote for her/him? If yes, then do so—with low expectations. If not, vote for some one else (the American version of “none of the above”) or don’t vote for the president at all, possibly an even stronger statement of the same. 

My final suggestion is that while discussion is to be encouraged, please don’t get into angry fights before the election or engage in recriminations after should your preferred candidate fail to win. A political choice is a highly personal matter and each person who bothers to vote makes the decision she or he thinks best. 

Meanwhile, on every one of the 633 days between now and November 3rd, 2020, may we all find something a great deal more important to engage our attention and a lot more useful and/or rewarding to occupy our time.